Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Johnny Can't Read

My job affords me the opportunity to unobtrusively observe teachers and students in their natural environment. Often, what I witness makes me proud to be an educator. Unfortunately, today was not one of those uplifting occasions.

A 1st grade teacher had dropped off her students to work in the computer lab on an educational reading software program under the supervision of the school librarian. Many of the students excitedly dove into their work. Others did not. Upon further inspection I discovered several of the apprehensive children had not mastered a single learning objective the entire year! The librarian shared my concern and asked how she could help. We made what modifications the program would allow, but it was clear teacher intervention and remediation would be required.

When the group's instructor returned to claim her students, I listened as the librarian relayed the struggles students were having with basic literacy skills. I was crushed by the teacher's response.

"I don't care what they are doing as long as you keep them away from me for the period. Let them paint their toes for all I care. I don't think kids learn from these things anyhow (pointing toward the computers). When it comes to reading, some of them get it and some don't."

I agree with half of that statement. Some kids do "get it" without us. More than likely they come from a stable family with an above average income level. The ones that don't get it need to be taught. Isn't that what we do as teachers?

If you think this is an isolated case you are either at a very special school or have become numb to this type of outrageous behavior. Teaching is not easy. Then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.

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